How cliché, right? It always gets to this time of year and there is an influx of ads on the sides of your internet tab with things like “Memorise the whole Quran in Ramadan!”, and then you get those really optimistic friends on Facebook that share videos galore and make every single status about the sweetness of preparing for Ramadan, and then of course there is the classic spiritual goals that everybody starts making – and it all gets a bit overwhelming, doesn’t it? I mean, sure, they all have good intentions and we appreciate the reminders, but do you ever feel like you can really relate to these articles? Do you read one and think “Yeah man, that sounds great!” and don’t actually know where to start? Have you come across an article that suggests mentally preparing yourself for Ramadan before anything else? As the month of Ramadan approaches, people often forget how people with mental health problems may have difficulty coming to terms with the idea of abstaining from food and drink for a long period of time – and although it is physically challenging, it’s not often acknowledged how mentally challenging it may be, some more than others. It’s not just about the no eating, as I’m sure many of those with eating disorders are thinking “I’ve got this” – it’s about the not eating for the sake of Allah, and with the intention of actually fulfilling the purpose of Ramadan. So, here I am, putting it out there for all you sufferers in the dark corners of your head, and telling you that it doesn’t make you a bad Muslim if you haven’t prepared for Ramadan yet, nor does it make you of any less worth than anyone else who has.
It is all well and good saying “Ramadan is coming, I’ll prepare doing…” – but firstly, we have to know why we actually have to prepare for it. I’ve had many people ask me “What is there to prepare for? Don’t you just eat before the sun comes up and when the sun goes down?“. Well, yes. However, it’s much more than that. It’s great of our friends on the internet to remind us to prepare for Ramadan and give us tips on how to do so, but why do we prepare for Ramadan?
1) Now bear with me, I’m well aware that the phrase “The sahabah used to prepare 6 months in advance of Ramadan, and then the following 6 months they would pray that all their deeds are accepted” – I’m not saying this is not inspiring, or totally awesome, because it is and we should take inspiration from those who were closest to our Prophet (pbuh), but why did they prepare? I’m sure they prepared physically to not eat or drink by fasting daily, and spiritually by increasing their salah, dhikr and recitation, but also mentally by being aware of Allah, and being positive about what is to come. It’s very easy for someone with depression to think “What is the point in fasting? Allah hates me anyway” and so you must start making yourself more aware of Allah, start pondering about the creations of Allah and say your testimony of faith with conviction and on a daily basis.
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous”
Think about how Allah has permitted you to live through another Ramadan, and that this month could be the month for you to grow and shine, think about how much Mercy He is literally giving to you to take advantage of, and please, remember Jannah. The paradise He has promised you right next to Him! You’re telling me that He hates you? Allah loves those that seek Him! So, love yourself enough to find and love Allah.
“And give good tidings to those who believe and do righteous deeds that they will have gardens (in Paradise) beneath which rivers flow…”
2) Thinking about Ramadan seems really heavy, right? A few years back, I used to think “I have to fast for this many hours, then in those hours where I have no fuel, I have to read, pray, go to college, do this and do that” etc etc. We are all busy, and that’s okay – no one is asking you to be perfect on the first day of Ramadan. In fact, not even Allah expects you to be perfect, He loves deeds that are consistent.
“The most beloved of actions to Allah are the most consistent ones even if they are little in amount”
It’s not quite the same as fasting with great imaan, reading so many surah, praying all your salah on time and in full, helping your parents out, and then fizzle out by the end of the first week. No, everyone knows and understands that it’s a struggle to begin with – and yes it can be stressful for some. I know that you will compare yourself to others who don’t seem to be ‘affected’ (so you think!) by anything and always have time for such and such, but you’re not that person. You are you, and you have to work with who you are and the way you think. So instead of thinking about Ramadan as one big tonne, think of it as tiny little weights. Begin with getting your salah on time, then work on the fasting, followed by a few ayah a day, then go on to the few extra deeds a day – or whatever works for you. Take the speed for your journey that you are comfortable with, but don’t be too easy on yourself – find the balance between being challenged and not being too stressed out. That way, you’ll pick up these little weights day by day, and by the end of the month you’ll be able to lift that tonne – and it’ll be you marking the start for the rest of your positive year.
3) Ramadan can be totally knackering, and it’s not because you’re lazy or not a good Muslim, it’s encouraged to nap during the day in Ramadhan to maintain energy throughout the day, so it’s okay to want to get into bed! (for a short amount of time) However, it can actually be very frustrating to get tired, I know for me, because I’m a total perfectionist – I often feel that because I’m getting tired and I’m not doing this properly or I’m not reading this how I should, my fast has gone to waste or I’m not doing it right, God forbid when I do sleep, I feel like I can’t do anything because I’ve wasted a whole hour sleeping. (Irrational, right?) However, after really analysing my day, I’ve realised that it’s okay to get tired and not be able to do everything all in one go or how I usually would if I wasn’t fasting, and thinking like that really gets me nowhere, and doesn’t benefit me in the slightest way. (It brings me down more!). I’ve also experienced people crying because they feel like they are bad people for wanting to break their fast because it is getting to hard, or for imagining food, I’m pretty sure it’s natural, and a lot of us do it! So, the main thing here is to not be too hard on yourself. It’s very easy for humans to have a negative bias, let alone those who suffer from mental health disorders, so be easy on yourself. Know your limits, understand your expectations, and adapt them around your day. Be flexible! (Not everyone has a soaring imaan day every day)
“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive (to Allah)”
4) Do you think the Prophet (SAW) or his companions used to say to, “You’re going to fail; you can’t fast through this Ramadan”? I think not! A lot of people say the usual stuff like: “Yeah, but they had more imaan than us” etc etc, it doesn’t matter – the point is, they never put themselves down so much so they couldn’t pick themselves back up. How can one be negative about a form of worship? You can’t keep telling yourself that you can’t do it, because you can, and Allah has willed for you to do so. Ramadan is a fardh upon on everyone who is able to fast healthily – and it may be difficult to do at first, but we have to know that Allah wants us to draw closer to Him otherwise He would not have given us the opportunity. There’s no such thing as failure in Islam – you just keep on going, and going!
“You haven’t failed, you’ve just found a few ways that don’t work, so don’t accept that as a failure, and definitely don’t accept not trying.”
5) “I’ve done this, and I’ve done that, and I’m still doing this so how can I possibly turn to Allah?” – I’ve heard this from smokers, drinkers, the not salah do-ers, the young relationship regretter’s, the non hijabi’s, the never-been-to-mosque men, those with anxiety, depression and all sorts. I’ve always replied with “Do you want to change?” if so, where, how and why are you supposed to start, right? The thing is, why do you always imagine a “muslim” to exceed in everything that they do and in all aspects of their life? Everybody has a struggle, and everybody has a hidden secret, so you can’t think that you’re the only sinner in the world. These ‘good muslim’s’ have probably been through a lot of struggle and still are with their own desires and deeds. So, where are you supposed to start? With your thoughts – you need to have a good spring clean of what is in your head, challenge those thoughts that say that Allah will not forgive you and you are a hypocrite etc, and replace them with more healthy and beneficial ones such as, “I am a slave of Allah and this is what my Lord wants”. How are you supposed to change? I have always and will always be a strong supporter of “baby steps” – there is no one in the world that will change overnight, but there is a boundary of only making intentions to change and not doing anything about it – don’t get lazy now. No matter how difficult you find it, and no matter how many times you get fed up or don’t feel a change, it’s okay, you only fail when you give up and lose faith. Finally, why should you change?
“…Indeed, Allah loves those who are constantly repentant…”
You still need more motivation? The Night Of Power. This night, in the last 10 days of Ramadan is equivalent to 83 years of life – this is literally an opportunity of a lifetime! Just because it comes every year, it does not mean it is not an opportunity of a life time, some people won’t get to see this opportunity this year or next, whilst many may not have done everything they possibly could have last year that they can do this year, or better yet, some may not be experiencing the same faith that they do this year. We have to understand that Allah has given us a year’s worth of life just to meet this one night is unimaginable, right? He gave us a whole year, just to live this one night, why? He knows that we cannot do this many deeds in our life and so He has made it easy for us by showering us in His Mercy, Love and Compassion – in this one night. Does this not put your irrational and negative thoughts at rest, to know that Allah has Decreed and Willed for you to be alive to invest in your Akhirah and gain the pleasure of Allah?
Remember, you are special, you are a part of the best of nations, a chosen slave of The Most Merciful, a significant individual that has been permitted to see another Ramadan, to do another salah, to fast another day and to be generous to the less fortunate. Only you can realise how special you are. Allah has not abandoned you, and He certainly won’t abandon you during Ramadan when you seek Him and need Him the most. Cling on to your faith, because
“Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.”